Elimination games are never fun. Especially when you have to play a team like Ole Miss. To get a better idea of what we may see tonight, we chatted with Jeff Gray from SBNation and Red Cup Rebellion. We're going to see the the best pitching in Omaha take on the best hitting. It should be a treat. Just hope it doesn't result in tears...
Congrats on the win against Tech. How was that emotionally as a fan/blogger?
As a fan, my reaction was sprinting around my house with my dog under my arm like a football while alternately screaming at the top of my lungs and slamming a Bud Light. As a blogger, my reaction was PAGEVIEWS!
What can you tell me about your starter for tonight?
Sam Smith is our Sunday guy, and he began the season with eight consecutive quality starts. Since then he's pretty much fallen apart. His MO is getting knocked out of games early: he hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in over two months. He'll have done a decent job if he gets us out through the fourth inning with less than three runs allowed.
Expect to see the bullpen early, either lefty Jeremy Massie or righty Aaron Greenwood.
Offensively, who should we look out for?
The power bats are Will Allen and Sikes Orvis, but they've struggled against the elite pitching and absurd stadium handicap in Omaha, combining to go 0-12 combined over the first two games. I think the real keys to the Rebel offense against TCU will be leadoff man Braxton Lee and two-hole hitter Auston Bousfield. They can both swing the bat, but more importantly they have some serious wheels. In a big park with as much room in the outfield as TD Ameritrade, they're a threat to score from anywhere on the bases.
What's the baseball tradition/fanbase at Ole Miss like?
Not to sound boastful, but really damn good. This is the one Big 3 sport we're consistently good at, so Rebel fans get fired up for baseball season. We were fifth in the country in attendance this year, which if you ask any Ole Miss fan is actually pretty disappointing (we were third last year). A conference Saturday game is pretty much guaranteed to draw 10,000.
Despite having been a baseball power for somewhere around a decade, this is our first trip to Omaha in 42 years, which just adds to the excitement in Oxford. A ton of fans have made the trip to Omaha, and those that haven't will be packing the bars on the Square Thursday night.
How does this team differ from the very good squads over the past few years? What made this year different?
I think the biggest difference has been consistency, particularly in the postseason. We've had a powerful offense for a few years now, but it always seemed to pitter out when it mattered. We always have some of the best pitchers in the country, but they'd manage to have a bad game once the regionals rolled around. Or we'd make some back-breaking error or bone-headed base running mistake at the worst possible time.
This year's team hasn't had those lapses or made those mistakes.
What's the biggest obstacle keeping y'all from a National title? Y'all are a very balanced team, is the bullpen deep enough?
I think the bullpen is the most underrated aspect of this team. Everyone wants to talk about the offense and the starters Chris Ellis and Christian Trent, but relief arms have been a key to this postseason run. Massie can eat up innings as a middle reliever, Greenwood and Scott Weathersby have been dominant and after a few hiccups, Josh Laxer has developed into a quality stopper on the back end.
If anything, it's the depth of the starting rotation that has me worried. There's not much to lean on after Ellis and Trent. As I mentioned, Smith has struggled down the stretch. Massie is actually a reliable starter, but he's been used exclusively out of the pen in this tournament. The next man up is probably Evan Anderson, a freshman who's only seen midweek action.
Because we won our regional in three games, we have yet to need a fourth starter in the tournament. If we manage to beat the Frogs, it will be interesting to see who we go with against Virginia.
What's your pick for tonight's game?
I really don't like the look of things for Ole Miss. Smith could give up a few early runs and given the offense's struggles and the strength of the TCU pitching staff, that may be too much for the Rebs to overcome. That being said, this team has continually defied my expectations at every turn this season, so who knows.
What the hell, I'll say Ole Miss rallies late to win 3-2.